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Cholera kills Burundi refugees from Bujumbura fighting

The UN has warned that a deadly cholera outbreak, which has killed some 30 refugees from unrest in Burundi, could get worse. Tens of thousands have fled to neighboring countries, with violence raging in the capital.

A World Health Organization official on Thursday said at least 30 people had died from a cholera outbreak in a Tanzanian camp for refugees from Burundi, with the number at risk of contracting the disease growing every day.

The WHO has warned that a "severe humanitarian crisis" is emerging in Tanzania because of the influx from Burundi, which lies on its western border. The UN health body said between 500 and 2,000 Burundians were arriving each day in the small Tanzanian fishing village of Kagunga, which lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

Cholera, a highly-infectious water and food borne disease that causes diarrhea, leads to severe dehydration, resulting in possible death.

The charity Oxfam warned the risk of disease was "dangerously high," and that "clean water, medical care and proper sanitation are urgently needed." Oxfam, which is trying to install taps and latrines in Kagunga, warned that the flood of people was "a ticking time bomb for disease."

"Children under five are most at risk, and with no access to clean drinking water, and next to no sanitation, it is a life-threatening situation for many," the charity said. About half of those living in the refugee areas are believed to be children.

Two protesters shot

Anti-government protesters are opposed to President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to run for a third term of office, which they say is unconstitutional and violates the terms of a peace deal that, in 2006, ended a 13-year civil war.

A Red Cross spokesman on Thursday told the Associated Press news agency that two protesters had been shot dead as violence escalated between police and protesters.

Alexi Manirakiza said one of the protesters was shot dead in the Bujumbura's Ngagara neighborhood, while another died in the Musuga district - a key flashpoint where shooting was heard overnight.

If confirmed, those deaths would raise the toll from violence in the capital to at least 18 since protests began three weeks ago.

Hundreds returned to the streets on Thursday, chanting anti-government slogans and singing.

Army cohesion 'crucial'

Nkurunziza, in an address to the nation late Wednesday, played down the unrest and claimed that most of the central African country was secure.

"Peace and security reign over 99.9 percent of Burundian territory and population are going about normally in their activities," Nkurunziza said in a state radio broadcast.

Newly-appointed Defense Minister Emmanuel Ntahonvukiye appealed for unity after a failed coup was crushed by loyalist forces after street fighting between rival factions.

A military statement warned that the cohesiveness of the army was vital, and that any splintering might result in a situation similar to that in nearby Somalia.

rc/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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